Triborough in breach of Elective Home Education guidance

Daniel Gordon made this Freedom of Information request to Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council

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Dear Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council,

In a recent petition to highlight your boroughs insistence on
meeting with home educating parents the following points were made:

Local Authorities have a duty to make enquiries should it 'appear'
the educational provision may not be suitable. They have no duty to
monitor. However, the triborough services expect families to meet
them or provide a professional endorsement of the provision, from
the beginning of communications, before any appearance of concerns.
This is not in accordance with the EHE guidance.

The triborough have served School Attendance Orders on Home
Educating families because they have chosen not to meet the LAs
ultra vires demands. None of the cases, to our knowledge, were any
any specific concerns raised about the educational provision.

The LA cite that it is agreed in their policy and letters that
families should meet the LA or provide a professional endorsement
and that providing a report (written by the parents) is not
adequate. However according to the EHE guidance, it is the family’s
decision how they wish to respond to communication from the LA, yet
this LA are not respecting the parents’ rights.

Liz Truss MP and Graham Stuart MP have told the triborough services
to adhere to the guidance, but they have not taken this advice and
continue to lack respect for the government written guidance.

We request that the triborough bring their policy and procedures in
line with the law and that families are respected in their choice
of preferred method of communication and respect be given to
reports provided by the parents. We ask that the procedures within
the EHE guidance are followed in full, and that the automatic
expectation of guilt and demanding of evidence cease.

The triborough is the only LA in the country (that we are aware of)
to serve SAOs on families without actual 'appearance' of the
education being unsuitable, the SAO's are based purely on the
family excersicing their right not to meet the LA.

Please find below two quotes; the first from a letter written by
Westminster EHE team to one of the family's concerned and the
second from the SAO letter, neither of which respect the parents
right to choose as per section 3.6 of the guidance (which follows
directly on from already having conducted informal enquiries and
there being an appearance of the education not being suitable) (the
following is not meant to be used prior to concerns) :

'Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision
that they are making for the child's education during a home visit,
but parents are not legally required to give the local authority
access to their home. They may choose to meet a local authority
representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location
instead, with or without the child being present, or they may
choose not to meet at all. Where a parent elects not to allow
access to their home or their child, this alone does not constitute
a ground for concern about the education provision provided. Where
local authorities are not able to visit homes, they should be able
to discuss and evaluate the parents' educational provision by
alternative means, as is done in the vast majority of cases. If the
parent chooses not to meet, they may, legally be asked to provide
evidence that they are providing suitable education. If a local
authority asks the parent to provide information, the parent is
under no duty to comply, although it would be sensible for them to
do so. Parents might prefer to write a report, provide samples of
work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party
(such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some
other appropriate form, which is well within their legal rights to
do so. '

Quote from letter: 'Thank you for the comprehensive report you have
provided in relation to the provision you are making for your
[child]. As our procedures confirm, we usually meet with children
and their parents who are home educating. Although written
information can be helpful, it is a statement of intent and not, by
itself, a satisfactory means of ascertaining that a child is in
receipt of suitable education. As you are aware, we cannot of
course insist on a meeting with you and you have, to date, declined
to meet with the Home Education Adviser, either at your home, these
offices or any alternative venue of your choosing. We have
therefore confirmed we would consider information from an education
professional who knows [child] (maybe one of the teachers [child]
currently engages with at one of the classes [child] attends) who
would be prepared to provide a formal opinion regarding the
provision being made.

Quote from SAO letter '1) You could agree to meet with the Home
Education Adviser, at any venue of your choice or 2) You could
provide written confirmation from one of the independent education
professionals currently involved in [child's] home education
program.

In the absence of either of these, the position of the Local
Authority, in line with the agreed relevant policies and
procedures, is that we have been unable to be satisfied that
[child] is in receipt of suitable education. A School Attendance
Order is therefore attached (a hard copy will be put in the post).
To reiterate, we remain committed to resolving matters without
resorting to legal action and would urge you to reconsider the
options that have been outlined. As previously explained, the
significant majority of families we work with are prepared to meet
with the Home Education Adviser and have been doing so for a number
of years. If you felt able to reconsider and change your mind about
meeting with the Home Education Adviser we would, of course, be
prepared to facilitate a meeting. Additionally, the alternative
option, information from an education professional involved with
[child] who would be prepared to provide verification of the
suitability of the provision, may also be something you would be
prepared to consider.'

Under the FOI Act please send me details of numbers of parents
whose children were
not registered at a school who have been served by your local
education authority with a School Attendance Order for failing to
satisfy the authority their child is receiving suitable education.

Please send figures for each of the following years: 2011, 2012,
2013, and 2014.

Additionally, please send numbers of notices of intention to serve
a School Attendance Order.

For the same years, please send statistics of numbers of parents
who have been prosecuted for not complying with a School Attendance
Order.

Yours faithfully,

Daniel Gordon

H and F In Touch, Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council

Our reference: 831242
 
 
Dear Sir/Madam 
 
Thank you for your request for information that was received on 14
September 2015.  Your request has been summarised as follows:
 
Under the FOI Act please send me details of numbers of parents whose
children were not registered at a school who have been served by your
local education authority with a School Attendance Order for failing to
satisfy the authority their child is receiving suitable education.

Please send figures for each of the following years: 2011, 2012, 2013, and
2014.

Additionally, please send numbers of notices of intention to serve a
School Attendance Order.

For the same years, please send statistics of numbers of parents who have
been prosecuted for not complying with a School Attendance Order.
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
and we aim to send a response by 12 October 2015 - this is 20 working days
from the date of receipt.
 
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 may restrict the release of some or
all of the information you have requested. We will carry out an assessment
and if any exemptions apply to some or all of the information then we
might not provide that information to you. We will inform you if this is
the case and advise you of your rights to request an internal review.
 
We will also advise you if we cannot provide you with the information
requested for any other reason together with the reason(s) why and details
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you can track the progress of your request online:  [1]Track case progress
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
h&f InTouch team
 

References

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1. Track case progress (opens a new window)
https://www.apps3.lbhf.gov.uk:443/cus/se...

Graham Ostle, Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council

1 Attachment

Our reference:  831242
 
Dear Sir/Madam
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 14 September 2015.
 
Please find attached our response to your request.
 
Yours faithfully
 
 
Graham Ostle
h&f inTouch
 
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